Software that can be used to teach physiology and anatomy. Software that puts virtual reality technology developed at Iowa State University to work helping doctors and patients, teachers and students. Software that's now being sold by an Ames start-up company, BodyViz.com.
Two-dimensional imaging technologies have been used in medicine for a long time, said Eliot Winer, an Iowa State associate professor of mechanical engineering and an associate director of Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center. But those flat images aren't easily read and understood by anybody but specialists. "If I'm a surgeon or an oncologist or a primary care physician, I deal with patients in 3D", Eliot Winer stated.
And so Eliot Winer and James Oliver, an Iowa State professor of mechanical engineering and director of the university's CyberInnovation Institute, began to develop technology that converts the flat images of medical scans into 3D images that are easy to see, manipulate and understand. Thom Lobe, a paediatric surgeon based at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, helped the engineers design a tool doctors could use.
A 2007 grant of $109.533 from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic development programme, helped the three develop that technology into a commercial software product. The result is BodyViz.com, a start-up company founded by the three and based at Iowa State's CyberInnovation Institute. The company is now marketing the software as "Simple. Visual. 3D."
The company recently won the $25.000 top prize in the fourth annual John Pappajohn Iowa Business Plan Competition. Earlier this year, the company was named Outstanding Startup Company of the Year as part of the Technology Association of Iowa's Prometheus Awards. The company and its 13 employees have also been busy earning the required approvals from the Food and Drug Administration, developing a website and beginning to make sales, said Curt Carlson, the company's president and chief executive officer.
"This is a fantastic technology", Curt Carlson stated. "More and more doctors are going down this path." James Oliver, Eliot Winer and Curt Carlson like to quote a doctor who told a reporter that when preparing for complex procedures, "2D is guessing and 3D is knowing".
"3D visualization is used all the time", Eliot Winer stated. "But for the medical field it's a paradigm shift. And once doctors understand the basics of our software, they don't understand how they lived without it." And, Curt Carlson said, the software is a big hit in school biology classes. "It's fantastic to see the kids' eyes light up when they see this", he stated. "They're completely engaged when they see inside a body with this technology."